Thursday, January 31, 2013

20 Weeks: Training - Day 29

Emma, 20 Weeks, fresh from her bath.
With the week coming to a close I decided to fill in some of Emma's holes in her training.  She can do a Sit without thinking, but her Down and Stand are not as well known.  I decided to use today working on Puppy Push Ups to tighten her understanding of all three positions.

I woke both dizzy, exhausted and with a migraine this morning, so I decided to skip training for breakfast and slow down enough to recover and not loose the entire day by pushing myself too hard.  I tried to get Emma to do a down by the front door and again she shrunk into herself and gave me a lot of appeasement behavior.  This is a sign that doing a down by the front door makes her very uncomfortable and I needed to make it less stressful for her.  I didn't feel well enough to address it at that moment, so I let her out and went about getting myself sorted out.  I gathered the dog bowls and decided the porcelain bowl I have been using Emma I would switch out for a stainless steel bowl so Max could pick it up for me.  A new problem emerged; Emma was absolutely terrified of it.

She shrank into herself, stood and skulked away from the bowl while giving me a ton of appeasement behaviors.  Strange, but I again was not in a position to deal with it.  I gathered up the porcelain bowl and put her kibble in it and offered her breakfast.  Remember, she eats from this bowl off and on when at my home, but again today she shrank and skulked away.  With a sigh I just poured her food on the floor so she would eat.  With the food on the floor, she gladly ate her entire meal.  Clearly I need to make bowls less frightening and will come up with a plan on her not being afraid of them later.  I'll probably use Target if I can, if not, I will ask my trainer friends for advise and go from there.

Once my head stopped pounding and my energy levels increased, I went to Costco with my son Walter and bought a bag of food for Emma.  Her owners have her on a different food than my dogs are eating and generally give me a large food storage bag of food to feed her with.  I ran out of her food after her breakfast and decided I needed to be certain I always had enough food for her at my house.

When we returned and had lunch I took her and my dogs outside and let them play in the yard while I took advantage of the exposed ground and scooped poop.  Anyone who lives in this region know that January is the month dog poop gathers unheeded in your yard, buried under layers of snow and frozen by near sub-zero temperatures.  This January was no different.  Most days were in the high teens and some dropped into the single digits.  Winds whipped and snows fell and the poop  went un-scooped for nearly a month.  With four dogs and a small yard this can mean a lot of cleanup on the first clear ground day.  Today was that day.

Emma enjoyed racing about the yard and playing with Max.  I had to call him back a couple of times because he got a bit rough, but overall the two played well while I worked in the yard.  I am, after this afternoon's adventure of scooping, considering putting corks in all of them.  At one point I turned and Emma was in one of my raised garden beds digging at my covered artichoke plant.  When I said her name she gave me a "what?" look and then went back to digging at my plant.  Looks like this spring I'll be teaching her to stay out of raised garden beds.

Since the metal bowl bothered her and doing a down by the front door bothered her I decided today to do training in that location and using the metal bowl for her kibble.  Below is the description of our success!

Today's Training:


Emma is working on Level 2: Step 2 Down.  In this step Emma is asked to hold a Down for a longer and longer period of time.  In order to practice it in a real life situation I have started having her do Downs for life rewards, such as getting out of her crate or going outside.  When I started this she began giving appeasement behaviors at the front door, which told me that she was uncomfortable with something about doing a Down by the front door.

I suspected the problem was she was blocked on two side, one of them by Max.  I decided this afternoon to stand by the front door and ask Max to down where he normally does when we are about to go outside.  Emma joined us and I waited for her to offer a behavior, any behavior, to start her trying to earn her lunch.  She offered a Sit, the one behavior she's comfortable doing by the front door.  I clicked that and rewarded her.  I then clicked her standing, moving, looking at the floor and she suddenly decided to try a down between me and Max.  I clicked that and stopped rewarding the other behaviors.  It wasn't long before she realized the only behavior that got a treat was a Down and she began throwing them at me faster and faster and with less stress each time.  She finished her lunch being clicked for Downs only by the front door between Max and I or Max and the wall.

For her dinner I had Max again lay in his normal spot by the front door and placed her between him and I and the wall and sat on the floor.  I lured her into Sits, Stands and Downs and slowly worked to saying the verbal cue only for the Sits and Downs and using a combined hand and verbal cue for Stands.  This took approximately half of her meal.

For the second half of her dinner I worked with her while I stood.  She was allowed to move to a new location, but still by the door, but still needed to offer Sits, Stands and Downs to get clicks.  She continued her Puppy Push Ups and showed no discomfort with doing Downs by the door as we worked for her dinner.  Her Downs became quick and fluid and her tail was waving.  I saw no appeasement behaviors while I worked on Puppy Push Ups.

After her lunch I let her sniff the bowl I used to get her kibble out of and she was curious, but not afraid.  After dinner I again offered her a chance to check the bowl, but she began to throw appeasement behaviors.  I believe I will need to shape her to touching the bowl tomorrow for breakfast and then work again on Downs by the front door.

The big surprise came when it was time to let her outside again after dinner.  I lined up the dogs and asked Max for a Down and Emma threw herself to the floor!  It was nice to see that the little bit of clicker work by the front door has taken a lot of the spook out of the location.


I have noted that Emma is a bit of a wilting flower when she's frightened.  She easily shuts down and throws appeasement behavior when she's fearful.  Where Max can handle my loosing my temper at something and hear me swear for a moment or two, Emma is unable to handle it at this time.  Though I don't often loose my temper, I am not perfect and I am used to dogs with a tougher skin than Ms. Emma.  This means I have to be extra careful when I am working with her and she begins to wilt and throw appeasement behaviors.  I can't just laugh at her and give her a good thump on the ribs like I do Max when he startles; she can't handle that reaction and needs a softer approach to ease her anxiety.

Thankfully, she's a puppy who can quickly recover and gain a lot of confidence with a bit of gentle guidance.  A couple of thought out clicker sessions on something that bothers her and she rebounds with great confidence.  This ability will do her well in her job in the future, as long as we are careful to help her gain her confidence now and build upon it with continued loving success.

She is also wicked smart.  Where Max will still seek and find a treat that trails off when tossed at him, she's come to the conclusion that Zen means that if a treat is not slid to her or lands right at her feet, then it is not her treat and she's to ignore it.  This will work well in her future job, but can make some of her early training a bit more challenging.

She's learned to sit back and give "other dog working Zen" when I work with Max.  Her ability to pick up and retain on lessons means that if I make a mistake of letting her do something one time to often it'll be "okay" according to her learning theory.  Running away when she doesn't want something done is one of those things.  If she doesn't want to go to bed she will turn and walk off.  If she doesn't want to have her ears cleaned or her body groomed she does the same.  Next week I am going to teach her a "don't walk off" cue to curb this annoying habit.  Though not a "Levels" behavior, it will be one badly needed if she is ever loose outside of a fenced area and we need to catch her.

Attitude, who also had this habit. was taught "stop" and "wait".  Stop meant to stop moving and but her butt to the ground and wait for me to pick her up.  Wait meant to not go any further, but she could turn and walk in my direction or away from the item she was moving toward; it has saved her life more than once when she's escaped from the fence and was moving toward traffic.  Dieter also learned these words and recently demonstrated it when Walter left the gate open and Dieter was headed toward it.  Walter called out "Dieter, Wait" and Dieter stopped going for the gate and turned and walked to the corner of the yard, inside the fence line, instead.  This behavior is needed for Emma, who like Attitude, likes to play the "you can't get me" game.

I am going to teach her Whoa, which means to stand where she is and not move - period.  I will start Whoa training and continue working on Sit and Down when blocked on two or more sides until she's confident and comfortable with it.

Tomorrow we'll finish the "Down in front of the door is not scary" training and really get her enjoying throwing Downs to go outside.

Level 1
StepCompletedCompleted CompletedCompletedCompleted
Level 2
FocusLazy LeashGo To MatCrateDistance

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